Civil and Human Rights

Chief Justice John Roberts: Turning Back The Clock On Progress Toward Racial Equality

Washington, DC – As the Supreme Court is considering its ruling in the Fair Housing Act case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities, heard late last month, Constitutional Accountability Center is releasing the latest snapshot in its “Roberts at 10” project examining John Roberts’s first decade as Chief Justice of the United States: Roberts at 10: Turning Back The Clock On Progress Toward Racial Equality


This most recent snapshot looks at what to date has been Chief Justice Roberts’s signature issue on the Court: his jurisprudence on race. Epitomized by the voting rights case of Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts’s approach is apparent not only from the substance of his opinions, but also in the Court’s case selection process.  In most areas of the law, the Justices get involved only when there is conflict among lower courts, or where a federal statute has been declared unconstitutional.  But that is not the pattern in the Roberts’s Court’s race cases.  In almost all of the biggest decisions of the Roberts Court in this area, the Justices have granted review even when the lower courts, following settled Supreme Court precedent, were in complete agreement.  In short, this is an area in which , year after year, the Roberts Court has repeatedly taken cases to make new law. The current Term is no exception, as the Court has agreed to review the Inclusive Communities case despite the lack of disagreement on the central issue in the case among any of the eleven federal circuit courts of appeal to have considered it,


Read the new “Roberts at 10” snapshot and an excerpt here:


When John Roberts was nominated to the Court, there was significant concern about his civil rights record.  As a member of the Reagan Justice Department, Roberts took aim at basic policies and protections – from affirmative action to disparate impact liability – designed to help ensure equality of opportunity.  He’s done the same as Chief Justice.  While Roberts hasn’t always been able to bring his conservative colleagues together to roll back protections for equality, given his jurisprudence to date, this goal appears to remain central to his mission as Chief Justice.  When all is said and done, there is little doubt that Roberts’s legacy on matters of race will be one of trying, and in substantial part succeeding, in rolling back the clock on progress toward equal opportunity.




Additional Resources:


Roberts at 10: A Look at the First Decade of John Roberts’s Tenure as Chief Justice (opening Snapshot): 


Roberts at 10: Federal Power: The Evolving Story of John Roberts and Congress’s Commerce Clause and Spending Clause Powers: 


Roberts at 10: Campaign Finance and Voting Rights: Easier to Donate, Harder to Vote: 


Roberts at 10: Roberts’s Quiet, But Critical, Votes To Limit Women’s Rights:


Roberts at 10: Roberts’s Consistent Votes to Close the Courthouse Doors:


“Roberts at 10” experts available for interviews: CAC’s Appellate Counsel Brianne Gorod, and Civil Rights Director David Gans.




Constitutional Accountability Center ( is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history.



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